Howdy tone friends! I promised another "sleeper amp" blog, but I'll do ya one better and turn y'all on to an entire line of stupidly inexpensive sleepers ... cool, right? I'm talking about the early Peavey tube amps and tube/ss hybrid amps. Stick with me gang, these amps have been dissed for decades, so you may have decided they are crap without even HEARING one ... that would be a mistake; these amps have some serious mojo that's all their own. Let's talk about them.
Throughout this blog, I'll be directing you to quite a few OTHER blogs, as much has already been written on Peavey amps. The first blog I'd like to call your attention to is the official Peavey history, found HERE.
If ya read that ... I just bet there will be a few times you say "wow, really?". I know I did! Like the fact that Hartley Peavey and Co were already making Class-D amps in 1984 ... seriously ... why didn't I know this? Wow! Or, how about that totally cool blond first ever Peavey amp from 1961:
I doubt you'll find one of THOSE at a pawn shop for fifty bucks, but I'm getting ready to talk about the early Peavey amps that you just might!
The Peavey "Vintage" was a totally cool tweed-twin type amp, and the earliest all-tube versions actually sound flat-out fantastic. Here's a good photo of one, check out the discussion on the Les Paul Forum:
Now the thousand-pound gorilla's of the Peavey amp world, the tube amps of Lynyrd Skynyrd's golden era; these amps, with their aluminum side-trim made their first appearance in 1969, and were omnipresent throughout the 70's. And yep, Skynyrd really did play through em on tour and in the studio. These amps also OWNED the Nashville country scene throughout the 70's and 80's, in fact they were the ONLY amp allowed on the stage of the Grand Ol Opry for over two decades. Yep, all those fantastic Grand Ol Opry live recordings were 100% Peavey!
Let's dive in to the amps of the Peavey aluminum trim glory years.
The Mace. This insane power monster sported six 6L6 tubes for what the manual states is "160 very conservatively rates watts RMS". By the way, manuals to all the vintage Peavey models are still available on the Peavey site, that's cool! With the standard spring reverb and tremolo of the day, this big Bertha was available as a head or a 2x12 combo, these amps certainly did not have a fantastic distortion, but if you want a clean pedal platform with headroom FOREVER, this amp will get ya there! if you buy one of the early models with Eminence speakers, be prepared to replace them, a Mace could easily shred the Emis, later they put the newly developed Peavey "Black Widdow" speakers in them, and they generally took the onslaught okay.
The Duce. With only four 6L6 output tubes this monster was "conservatively rated at 120 watts RMS", enough for nearly EVERY gig these days! This amp was pretty much the same amp as the Mace ... but again, with "only" 120watts! The Duce was available as a head, 2x12 combo, or the real winner of the bunch: the seriously sweet 4x10 combo.
The Early Peavey Classic. With only a pair of 6L6 output tubes, this is the sweeet spot. Again, with spring verb and tremolo, the Classic was originally available in a 2x12 or a 4x10 config, and again, the 4x10 is the clear winner in the tone department. Of all the amps represented on this blog, the Classic is the #1 sleeper amp.
And last ... a couple of honorable mentions!
The aluminum-edge Bandit. Man oh man were these popular amps in the 1980's! These 1x12 combo amps came about a little later, introduced in 1980, and do not have tubes in the output stage ... they are all solid-state ... but they deserve a mention because 1) they are a good little 60-wat 1x12 combo that has a good clean tone and makes a fine pedal platform and 2) There were so many made that they can be had VERY cheap; I've seen them for $35 on Craigslist. Read about the entire Bandit line here.
The Peavey Backstage Plus. Basically the same amp as the Bandit, but with only 35-watts RMS in a 1x10" combo, this amp is perfectly in-step with what folks want out of a guitar amp in the current era ... it's a small, lightweight grab-n-go combo that has a good amount of clean headroom and makes for a good pedal platform. It makes me chuckle that when these amps were designed they were not considered loud enough to be used on stage ... but in the dressing room BACK STAGE. These little critters are easily as loud as a Deluxe Reverb and have a very similar tone, and MORE clean headroom ... in other words, perfect for today's stages. Backstage my eye!
And last: The ENTIRE Classic series!
Peavey has had an amp model called the "Classic" non-stop for nearly 40 years, and seriously, they are ALL sleeper amps that sound good on the cheap. My personal favorite would be the dual 6L6 powered tweed Classic 50 ... the 2x12 version is good, but the 4x10 version is just plain excellent. I also like the early versions that look like a vintage tweed Fender, of course!
Enough! I'll stop mow. I know ... it was a lot, but well, that's Peavey, they have made a LOT of amps, and they are so darn dependable that most of them are still around :-)